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Change of scenery helps Wakayama’s Kawamura grow into all-around standout

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Takuya Kawamura has been known as one of the best Japanese offensive machines in the last several years, winning multiple scoring titles in the Japan Basketball League, the predecessor of the NBL.

It didn’t fully satisfy him, though. Rather, he disliked who he was in the last few years. He felt he tried to show everybody that he was larger than who he was.

That is why he transferred to the Wakayama Trians from the Link Tochigi Brex before this season.

“I didn’t like myself when I was in Tochigi,” Kawamura said last weekend. “I was probably giving the impression to people that I was arrogant and hard-nosed. I was exhibiting myself in a wrong way. And I didn’t like it.”

His move to Wakayama has paid off. Kawamura doesn’t lead the league in scoring. He doesn’t even lead his club in that department (Michael Parker is the leader with 22.8 points). But he enjoys the game as much as ever right now.

“I wasn’t good both technically and mentally. I wasn’t enjoying the game and it was shown on the court,” the 27-year-old guard/forward, who’s eighth in the JBL in scoring (19.0 points per game) through last weekend, said of his days in Tochigi. “So I wanted to change that and that’s why I moved to Wakayama. We’ve played through some 30 games, but whether we win or lose, I’ve been able to have fun.”

One of the most notable differences about Kawamura with the Trians is that he dribbles the ball into the frontcourt and feed passes like a point guard more than before. Formerly known as a pure scorer, Kawamura is more like a complete player now.

In fact, the 193-cm player ranks among the league leaders in other key statistical categories, such as assists (4.9 per game, third), steals (1.5, seventh) and 3-point percentage (39.1, ninth).

“My goal for this year is to have 20 points and five assists every game,” he said. “Coach (Zeljko Pavlicevic) has made the team around me, so I’m hoping to lead the team to victories, taking advantage of the abilities of my teammates.”

But Kawamura is not going to stress on passing the ball too much.

“If you just keep passing the ball, it won’t give your defenders threats,” said the former Japan national team player, who attempted to make an NBA roster through a summer league for the second time in his career last year. “If you look around America, many point guards keep attacking the basket while feeding assists, like Chris Paul (of the Los Angeles Clippers) in the NBA.”

Pavlicevic, a veteran Croatian coach, said that the versatile Kawamura can contribute to the team even when he’s not scoring.

“You rarely see a talent like Kawamura,” the former Japan national team head coach said. “He’s a real deal. He was 0-for-6 in 3-point shooting today (in a 77-73 loss against the Hitachi Sunrockers last Saturday), but he still helped our team with other things.”

Around the league: The league’s top clubs, Aisin SeaHorses and Toshiba Brave Thunders, split with one win each in a two-game series this past weekend, in their first meeting of the season.

Through the series in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, Aisin stayed on top being the lone leader of the entire league with a 28-4 record, followed by the Brave Thunders at 27-5.

These two club played in the JBL Finals last year, and Aisin ended up earning the title.

Meanwhile, the Toyota Alvark (24-8) have seemingly been in sync lately. They are currently on an eight-game winning streak and have cut the deficit to three games behind the Eastern Conference-leading Toshiba.

In the West, the Trians (23-9) are a team to watch. They’ve gone 5-1 since the league resumed play on Jan. 25 after the All-Japan Championship.

Break the status quo: The Japan Basketball Association recently announced that it would form a professional league in 2016. While the details (such as whether there will be collaboration between the NBL and bj-league) will presumably be presented to the fans later, many think that the situation with the two top leagues co-existing has to be resolved.

Before this announcement was revealed, former star player Kenichi Sako, who will become the head coach for NBL expansion club Hiroshima Dragonflies next season, spoke about the unusual situation.

“It’s great that that the players have more teams to play for today,” Sako said of the 33 clubs combined between the NBL and bj-league in the 2013-14 season. “But it’s questionable we should have two pro leagues in this small country.”

In terms of the overall population of the game, basketball is one of the top sports in Japan. But Sako doesn’t think that basketball will become a major sport unless the status quo ends.

“We’ve got to unite the bj-league and NBL in the future, keeping the number of teams,” said Sako, one of the best players that Japan has ever produced and a former JBA board member.

“For those that don’t know about basketball inside and outside of Japan, it’s really confusing that we have two leagues.”